Crowd mobs Taco Bell openingBy TERRY BADMAN Herald Correspondent | July 24,2008Vyto Starinskas / Rutland Herald
Cars line up at Rutland’s new Taco Bell on Wednesday. During lunchtime, customers waited in a 25-car line at the drive-up window and lined up outside the restaurant to get in.Rain fell through the Wednesday afternoon lunch hour, but that didn't stop hundreds of local chalupa-starved residents from lining up for the grand opening of the new Taco Bell on Route 7 in Rutland Town.
"I was gonna put a tent out and camp on the lawn," area local Joe Lattuca said.
Lattuca, dressed in a multi-colored wool poncho and a festive Mexican sombrero, stood in a line that stretched from the cash register inside, out the entrance doors and around the building as rain drizzled down on the crowd.
He said he waited "like a month" for the Taco Bell to open and hoped to order the "Grande Meal" when he finally reached the counter.
Cars backed up out the drive-thru spilled onto Cop John Drive, which was littered with parked cars stretching all the way down to the Holiday Inn.
The wait time for cars at the tail end of the drive-thru line was estimated at around 50 minutes at lunch time.
"We knew it was going to be big," Matt Prouty, Taco Bell operations leader, said. "We expected this and we're excited to be here."
Customers anxious to get taco fixes were waiting outside the Taco Bell doors as early as 7 a.m. Wednesday— three hours before the doors were set to open.
"We actually waited an hour to get in," Peggy DiDio said as she was finishing up her nachos.
DiDio said she would often drive to New York or New Hampshire to cure her Taco Bell cravings. She was glad Rutland had finally made things a bit more convenient.
On Monday, a "simulation training" confused many excited local residents into thinking the new franchise outlet was actually open for business. The exercise was designed to train Taco Bell employees on how to deal with drive-thru customers.
Dozens of cars were turned away after attempting to place actual orders at the drive-thru screen.
"The town seems really excited," Taco Bell area coach Frank Cottone said. Cottone said there are plans to build five more Taco Bell restaurants in Vermont, but they are still deciding which towns to build in.
As with any new craze, Cottone said, he expects high turnout and sales during the first few weeks of business. He expects certain things — such as cars backing up traffic and lines stretching out the door — will die down after the initial rush.
But if the long lines, sombreros and gorditas of Wednesday's grand opening are a sign of things to come — especially as a cheaper alternative to other restaurants in the area — the new Taco Bell should have no problem serving the needs of Rutland's late-night taco cravers.
"If they keep coming, we'll keep serving," Prouty said.MORE IN Local & State
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